Major dietary cholesterol sources are animal food products. Examples are egg yolk (~1234 mg/100g), beef products (~381 mg/100g), shrimp products (176 - 256 mg/100g. Plant products (eg. flax seed, peanut), also contain cholesterol-like compounds, phytosterols, which are suggested to help lower serum cholesterol.
1. If you want to improve your cholesterol count, it's not simply a question of eating less fat. A low-fat diet by itself is unlikely to work. Instead, you need to follow a nutritionally balanced diet that provides you with the right balance of macronutrients (fats, protein, carbs) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals), plus sufficient amounts of both soluble and insoluble fiber. The point is, to maintain a healthy body and an efficient metabolism, we need a wide range of nutrients, otherwise our system won't function effectively. So for best cholesterol results, aim to develop healthy eating habits across the board.
2. Choose Healthy Fats
Eat More Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
Not all types of fat are bad for serum (blood) cholesterol. True, we don't need any dietary cholesterol, nor do we need any saturated fat, or any hydrogenated or "trans fat". However, we DO need some fats - called essentially fatty acids (EFAs) - because our body does not manufacture them itself. The most important essential fatty acid is known as omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid
). This is found in some vegetable oils like flaxseed oil and fish oils from oily fish like mackerel, salmon, herring, sardines and tuna. Omega-3 actually helps to improve blood fats like cholesterol.
Switch To Non-Saturated Fats/Oils
Aside from EFAs, the basic rule for lowering cholesterol is to substitute non-saturated fats (eg. monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat from foods like fish, nuts, and vegetable oils) for saturated fat. The latter is found mainly in animal foods like meat and cheese, so go easy on meat/cheese and introduce more vegetarian meals into your weekly diet plan
Beware Trans Fat
In addition, beware foods that contain "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" or "trans-fats". For example, limit your consumption of shortenings, hard margarine, cakes, cookies, crackers, snack foods, fried foods, donuts, pastries, baked goods, and other processed foods made with these types of fat. Hydrogenated or trans fats function like saturated fat. A high intake of saturated fat, hydrogenated or trans fat increases cholesterol and other lipid levels, and may cause atherosclerosis.
Limit Your Intake Of Dietary Cholesterol
For most people, the RDA for cholesterol is < 300mg per day. However if you have hypercholesterolemia, the official advice is to eat no more than 200mg per day.
3. Eat Plenty Of Fruits And Vegetables
Fruit and veg is packed with valuable nutrients and contains a number of plant chemicals (phytochemicals) which are supposed to offer some protection again heart disease and cancer.
Fruit is a rich source of the antioxidant vitamin C (which helps to protect against degenerative diseases like atherosclerosis and cancer) and potassium (helps to regulate blood pressure), as well as both soluble and insoluble fiber both of which may help lower cholesterol slightly. Vegetables provide a wide range of nutrients, many of which help to maintain good heart health.
Interestingly, a 1999 analysis of 5 studies which followed 76,000 people for more than 10 years showed a 24 percent reduction in deaths from heart disease among vegetarians. By combining a high vegetable intake with good quality low-fat protein from meats like lean chicken, turkey or fish, nutritionists believe we can obtain many of the benefits of vegetarianism without any of its risks of nutritional deficiency
How much fruit and vegetables you should eat depends on your overall calorie intake. As a minimum guide, eat 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day for every 2000 calories consumed.
4. Choose High Fiber, Low-GI Carbohydrates
Despite claims from advocates of low-carb diets that carbs are bad, the fact is that many carbohydrates are an essential element in any low cholesterol diet plan. They are very nutritious and an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. The basic rule is to choose high-fiber low-GI carbs that are whole grain: meaning unrefined carb foods that retain most of the original fiber and grain. Examples of available whole grains include: wholewheat, whole oats/oatmeal, wheatgerm, whole-grain corn, air-popped popcorn, brown rice, basmati rice, whole rye, whole-grain barley, buckwheat.
The recommended daily carb intake is 45 to 65 percent of total calories. And the recommended dietary fiber intake is 14 grams per 1,000 calories, per day.
Lower Your Cholesterol Further By Improving Lifestyle
Although eating a heart-friendly diet is an important step towards healthy cholesterol levels, anyone suffering from hypercholesterolemia, familial hypercholesterolemia
or hypertriglyceridemia must consider the cholesterol-lowering benefits of physical exercise and take steps to follow a program of medically approved exercise. Although it is important to match the intensity and duration of your workout to your physical condition, there is no doubt that regular aerobic or cardio exercise strengthens the heart muscle, improves cholesterol results and helps protect against atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease
Maintain A Healthy Weight
Obesity is now established as an independent risk factor for atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease
. It is also part of a cluster of symptoms (others include, hypertension, hyperlipemia, diabetes) which make up the condition known as insulin resistance syndrome
- itself a predictor of adverse heart health. So for optimum cholesterol levels and heart health, try to maintain a healthy weight (BMI 20-24.9). If you are overweight (BMI 25-29.9) or obese (BMI > 30), it is definitely worthwhile losing weight. In fact, if you follow a healthy weight loss diet you should very quickly see an improvement in your cholesterol bloodwork.
Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco help to increase LDL levels (bad cholesterol), and depress HDL levels (good cholesterol). In fact, smoking massively increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.